#WCW - Meghan Ross, PA-S

Why I Chose the Physician Assistant Field

A big hello to Amber’s followers! My name is Meghan, and I am a brand-new Physician Assistant Student at the University of Texas Medical Branch. A little about my background, I am 22 years old, I just began PA school on July 5th, I am a blogger myself and the page can be found at MeghanInMedicine, I also have an Instagram blog page found at the same name @meghaninmedicine. I am so happy to guest blog on her page because she’s a wonderful PA student and great resource for Pre-PAs and PA students as well!

Today I’m here to talk about why I chose the Physician Assistant field over other fields of medicine. I’ve always pictured myself in the medical field, even as a child. I jumped from wanting to become a Pediatrician, or a Radiologist, to wanting to become a critical care Registered Nurse, or a Nurse Anesthetist. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in undergraduate school that I had even heard of the Physician Assistant field. My father actually introduced me to the field because he knew that I wanted to be in the medical field and wanted to a hold a large amount of responsibility for the patient, and he also knew what I wanted in my work life balance later in life. As I researched more into the PA field, I fell more and more in love with it because it simply felt like the perfect fit for me. I would able to diagnose, prescribe, perform procedures, counsel, and more AND be able to have lateral mobility to switch specialties as I please, work with a balanced schedule with possible days off during the week or consistent hours during the week, and one day be able to be present for my family and friends outside of work. I so highly respect those physicians who have dedicated a large portion of their lives to medicine, lifetime learning, 24-hour shifts, on call weekends, residency, and more, but I just do not think I would be happy living in that kind of lifestyle. The length and cost of training, collaboration with supervising physicians, lateral mobility, and hours/work life balance are the reasons I chose the Physician Assistant field.

Length/Cost of training: Well, to take it back to the beginning, a Physician Assistant can examine patients, prescribe medicine, order and interpret diagnostic tests, perform surgery, consult patients, and perform other duties that Physicians also perform, BUT Physician Assistant’s have 2 or 3 years of in class and clinical training, whereas Physicians often have 7 or more years of training. The cost of Physician Assistant school can vary greatly from 30,000 to 200,000 from matriculation to graduation depending on private or public, in-state or out-of-state, price of living, etc. but the median cost is 76,000. Comparatively, the median cost of Medical school for 4 years at a private university is 280,000. These differences are enough to persuade someone who doesn’t want to commit to nearly a decade of intense training and the anxiety of jumping into a deep pool of debt without having a job to pay it off for years due to training. Now obviously, the salary you come to make after you training is finished balances out the debt at some point in both situations. I came to terms with the fact that I can still provide health care, and great health care at that as a Physician Assistant.

Teamwork: A Physician Assistant is a mid-level health care professional who can provide care to patients under the supervision of a Physician. Some people may hate the thought of having someone “above” them, but I love the thought of having a Physician to consult with, collaborate with for bigger decisions, and overall just having a teammate if the going gets tough. That umbrella of safety is unique and important to me and is different than most jobs in the health care field can offer. My thought is having two sets of eyes on a patient is better than one.

Lateral Mobility: A Physician Assistant is not required to declare a specialty or go through residency in a specialty they want to work in. As a PA, I can graduate and apply for a job in Emergency Medicine and 10 years later, I can decide to apply for a job in Surgery. Yes, there will be some turnover time in learning and feeling completely comfortable in the new specialty but I love that I don’t have to commit to just one specialty.  Another great thing about not declaring a specialty is that many Physician Assistant’s can “moonlight” into different specialties as a second part time/per diem job, and another source of income. There are also some ARC-PA accredited residencies out there for Physician Assistants in just about every specialty that typically last 12 months for those looking for more training and education in a specialty they are sure they want to commit to.

Hours: A Physician Assistant can have some very great hours given the right opportunity. I’ve seen PAs working 1 week on, 1 week off, or 1 week on, 2 weeks off in the hospital setting and 4 days per week in the private practice setting. Now, not all jobs are this cushy, but there are a lot of great hours out there for PAs. Many Physicians can find themselves working 60+ hours per week depending upon their specialty. Depending upon your location, the staff situation, and specialty, many times there is no “on call” responsibility for PAs unlike many Physicians and typically no managerial responsibilities lie on the Physician Assistant in a practice setting. Something that really deterred me from going into Private Practice as a Physician was the huge business side of it that no one really sees. It’s really important to me to have a future work/life balance and I think the Physician Assistant profession will help me fulfill that. 

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